I know, I know, what is wrong with you, Nat? You haven’t read The Grisha Trilogy yet? The answer is no, because I am so behind on keeping up with all these series! But I finally got my hands on Leigh Bardugo’s books, so here are my thoughts on the first Grisha book, Shadow and Bone.
Most people seem to tell me that the Grisha books aren’t nearly as good as Bardugo’s Six of Crows duology, and I can see a bit of why. For me, the first two thirds of the book were simply okay. I found myself being rushed into the world of Ravka without getting to situate myself and connect with the characters. But I have to say, I loved that this was very obviously inspired by Tsarist Russia. As much as I love towering medieval castles with gowns and tunics, Ravka with their keftas and their stunning domed architecture is a breath of fresh air! Even if I really suck at pronouncing all the words. It brings so much more culture to the YA fantasy genre!
I was extremely interested in Alina and Mal’s orphan background, and I want to see what happens when the boundaries of their bond are tested. However, when things began to take off in the beginning of the book, the first two thirds of the story reminded me quite a lot of Red Queen and Vampire Academy with the training in hand-to-hand combat classes as well as in their powers, yet the passage of time was drastic. I found myself barely able to soak in the setting and the atmosphere, let alone connect with Alina enough to feel her struggle and growth during her time at the Little Palace. The time skips were too fast. It also made her attraction to the Darkling rushed in my opinion.
Actually, let’s talk about the Darkling for a second. I am really so curious as to how readers end up liking him by the end of the series! People, this isn’t a “I wonder how Rhysand ends up better” kind of situation – the Darkling is genuinely an evil ass! I definitely want to know more about him, especially after a line like: “Make me your villain.” But oh I could have kicked him where it hurts!
As for Alina, while there were moments where I had to pause and express what I wished she had said in certain situations, I did not hate her as a protagonist and have a feeling she will grow stronger. At the moment, Alina does not seem like a very memorable or outstanding character to me yet, but this may have been due to the lack of time spent experiencing her growth. I am of course, fully Team Mal right now though! Mal is at the moment my favourite character. He is charming yet there is something raw about him, and I honestly think I enjoy his character and personality the most.
I hope in the books to come that we get to experience the setting and the characters much more, since I feel like I didn’t get enough of it this first book. But I am definitely intrigued! I must find out what is so good about the Darkling, and I still have yet to meet the fan-favourite, Nikokai! I can’t wait to see what happens next.
My final rating is a 3.5 for Shadow and Bone!